Skip to content

Tova I

July 1, 2012

I have always wanted to sew my own clothing.  I’m 6′ tall, so off-the-rack has been challenging since sometime around age 14 (if someone can explain to me why companies like J.Crew make tall pants and tall coats, but DON’T make tall sweaters, I’d love to hear it…), but I’ve always been afraid to try making my own garments.  Which is weird.  Weird because I taught myself how to embroider while I was still in elementary school, and knit and quilt before I was 20.  Weird because my Mum sewed most of her own clothes, and most of ours, while we were kids.  Weird because I have always assumed that I can do anything when it comes to hand-work, provided I just go slowly at first.

But here’s the thing: screwing up a quilt block doesn’t waste much fabric, and only a little time.  The same is true for embroidery, and simple knitting, like a scarf.  But sewing a dress that doesn’t fit, or that you hate, or knitting a sweater that still isn’t long enough in the sleeve…well, that’s a big waste of time AND materials (and therefore $$$), and so I have always balked at this next obvious step in my hand-made education.

Sometime last winter I took a big step and actually bought two patterns: the Tova shirt and the Wiksten tank (alas, just before Jenny released the PDF versions, so I spent a bit more than you need to now).  I had seen some lovely versions of both on Karyn’s blog, and by all accounts these patterns were easy for beginners and easily altered.  And then they sat on my shelf.

Over Mother’s Day weekend Mum was down for a visit, and I had her help me get started.  I didn’t really need help, per se, just moral support, but having her beside me gave me the push I needed to finally make a shirt.  And you know what, it was easy!  It turns out that you actually need to be far less precise when sewing a shirt compared with sewing a fussy quilt block, so it was no big deal.

Tova I

Tova I

That said, I do have some advice for those of you who have yet to make the leap.  I bought a VERY cheap cotton/poly blend to start with, because I didn’t want to waste expensive fabric, but it was thick.  Not the best choice for a first go at a new pattern.  Also, it’s already starting to pill.  Oh well, it will be a great cottage shirt for years to come. :)  But I need to find a source of cheap muslin going forward, since I think it will be awhile before I feel confident in my alterations the first time through a pattern.

But if you’ve been hesitant, like me, to take the leap and sew some clothing for yourself, then hear this: you can do it! Really! I’m ready to cut out a Wiksten tank next, and I just bought Megan Nielsen’s Darling Ranges dress. I can’t wait to have a closet full of clothing that I made myself.

Now Stella needs to learn how to work a camera so that I can model it for you. ;)

Tova I

Cutting Stripes On The Bias

May 29, 2012

How To

When I posted about the baby quilt I made with vintage stripes, I had a few requests for a tutorial on how I achieved the matched bias stripes.  I hemmed and hawed about how to do this, since I really didn’t want to post instructions that would allow people to make Allison’s Pow-Wow quilt without buying her pattern.  That just didn’t feel right.  So what I’ve decided is that I will show some quick tips about cutting the strips I used, but without any dimensions or instructions for putting the block together.  I hope that everyone understands why I’ve chosen this course of action.

To start with, I really recommend starching the bejesus out of your piece of fabric.  It should be as close to paper as possible.  Seriously.  Because you will be cutting your strips on the bias (45° in this case), they will be very prone to stretching and distortion as you pin and sew, and the starch will help to protect against that.  It is also important to handle your strips quite gently for the same reason.

Once you’ve prepped your fabric, line up the 45° line on your ruler with one of the lower stripes.  The more accurate you are with this, the more precise your final piecing will be.  Begin by cutting off the bottom right corner.

bias-cut stripes tutorial

bias-cut stripes tutorial

Then repeat the same thing on the bottom left corner, such that you are cutting in the opposite direction from your first cut.  How larger a corner you cut off will depend on how long a strip you require for your project.  In the photo below I have cut to allow for an 8″ strip.

bias-cut stripes tutorial

bias-cut stripes tutorial

bias-cut stripes tutorial

Now that you’ve set up your angles, you can begin to cut your strips at whatever width you require.  If you need more than one pair then alternate which side you cut from so that you end up with pairs that are close to equal in length.

bias-cut stripes tutorial

When you take one left-hand strip and one right-hand strip and place them together you’ll see that they line up!

bias-cut stripes tutorial

You might notice that towards the top of the pair, it seems to slip out of alignment.  This is because the stripes on my fabric weren’t perfectly straight.  This particular sheet was well worn and hence thinner than new quilting cotton, so it was hard to avoid a bit of waviness.  But if you are using new fabric, and you are careful to “press” instead of “iron,” you should get much more accuracy.

I hope this was helpful, and if you end up making something with these tips I would love it if you posted a picture in my Flickr group.  I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Playing With Stripes

May 14, 2012

A few weeks ago I learned that an old childhood friend had given birth to a baby boy, her first. And when I got an invite to the shower I knew that I had to make little Kiran something special. I tossed around some ideas for a few days, but nothing seemed right. Then I stumbled on this new quilt design by Cluck Cluck Sew, called “Pow-Wow.” And THAT reminded me of this Lauren Moffat fabric that I’ve been kind of obsessed with, as well as these stamps, which I pinned last fall, and which, it turns out, inspired Allison’s quilt, too!

Suddenly I had an idea that I really wanted to run with, so I pulled out a pile of vintage stripes from my stash and got to work.

Playing with some vintage stripes this afternoon Progress on those vintage stripes...

Once I’d sewn up a bunch of chevrons, I strayed from the original plan for a minute. I thought they looked like the feathers on an arrow, so I played around with that, but ultimately decided that perhaps the new parents might not like weapon imagery…

I also really liked the idea of a colour wheel, but I’ve never pieced curves before, and thought that doing so for the first time on a last-minute gift might be asking for trouble. I think I’ll revisit it in future, though, because I love the way the mock-up looks! I just need to tackle a few test curves first. When I figured it out I’ll let you know!

Another option...

Finally, I went forward with my original plan, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out!

Vintage Chevrons baby quilt

Vintage Chevrons baby quilt

Vintage Chevrons baby quilt

Vintage Chevrons baby quilt

Vintage Chevrons baby quilt

The back...

I have no idea what the grey is, since it’s been in my stash a LONG time, but it’s close to Kona Coal.  The backing fabric (unfortunately I only got the one crappy picture of it) is an Ikea print from 2007.  I thought it matched the vintage sheets quite well!  The binding fabric is a Cranston VIP print. And I’ve got lots of vintage stripes in the shop, if you want some. ;)  I’m hoping to put some bundles together this week for anyone who’s interested, so stay tuned!

Show & Tell

April 1, 2012

Have you finished your Oh My Stars! quilt yet?  I certainly haven’t!  I had such high hopes for last week, but there were just too many other things that took priority.  But I promised to put up a linky post this weekend, so here it is.  I’m going to keep it open for a good long time so that people have time to finish up.  People like me… :)

So if you’ve finished up your quilt, or at least have the top put together, then please share!  I’ve really been loving the work people have been posting in the Flickr group, and I can’t wait to see how everyone chooses to quilt the finished products.  I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do with mine.  And you don’t have to have a blog to play along, you are more than welcome to link to a Flickr photo, etc.

(Ok…so after much fussing around it seems that blogs hosted on don’t allow javascript, and therefore won’t allow me to display the link list within the blog post. Boo-urns. Yet another reason why I really need to shift to self-hosting this blog. You know, eventually.

But you can still add your link by clicking on the symbol above. And you can see all the other links there, too.)

Oh My Stars! (A Quilt-Along)


March 22, 2012

I don’t know about where you live, but around here the weather has been nothing short of unbelievable.  Record-breaking.  And I must admit a tad concerning.  I can’t shake the feeling that some sort of April snowmageddon is inevitable given how nice the weather has been.  It’s been in the mid to high 20s for days, and I’m beginning to forget that it’s not actually summer yet.  I mean, we’ve had a humidex factor the last few days!  (I understand that things will be a bit more normal this weekend.)

Stella is thrilled.  Her favourite warm-weather pastime is to chill on the balcony off my studio and watch the world below.  The neighbours refer to her as Queen Stella, surveying her vast kingdom.  She never barks, just observes intently.

Surveying her kingdom.

Surveying her kingdom.

Surveying her kingdom.

Surveying her kingdom.

Of course, Stella and I aren’t the only one’s enjoying the warmth.  My garden is coming alive at a rapid – alarming? – rate.  In fact, there are a few things coming up that will very likely need protection from the inevitable spring frost yet to come.  But for now it’s been nice to get into the garden and start to clean things up.


It’s also been a great opportunity to get a jump start on some of the spring cleaning chores around the house.  Am I the only one who sees quilt designs everywhere I look?

Spring cleaning...

I hope you’re all enjoying some lovely weather, no matter where you are!

Constructing The Top

March 8, 2012

I can’t believe we’re at the end!  The final tutorial…time flies, doesn’t it?!

Now I know that many of you have already worked out your own strategy for piecing everything together, which is great!  But for people who need a bit more direction, I hope that the following diagrams help.  Essentially, the top is broken down into a small number of large sections which can each in turn be broken down into smaller parts that are easy to put together.

For a throw/twin quilt, there are six (6) sections, and for a full/queen quilt there are two (2) more sections for a total of eight (8).  (What?  You don’t remember there being a full/queen option?!  Well, someone wrote to me asking if I would mind working out a slightly larger version, and I was happy to oblige.  I’ll be adding the necessary details to the post about the blank diagrams as soon as I’m done here.)  In the following diagrams I am including the extra two sections (the pink and purple on the left side), but if you are making the smaller size then just ignore those.  Everything else is the same.

To begin, arrange your completed stars according to the groupings shown below, and start joining them together.

Completing the Top

Once you’ve sewn together the individual sections (the stars within the dashed boxes in the above image), you can begin to join them together. First, join the sections in pairs:

Completing the Top

Then join the paired sections together into the completed design:

Completing the Top

At this point, your finished top will be 60″ x 84″ if you are making the smaller size, and 80″ x 84″ if you are making the larger size. If you’d like to increase the size of your completed quilt (68″ x 92″ for the small, 88″ x 92″ for the large) by adding borders, then start with the strips for the top and bottom. For the small they are 4-1/2″ x 60-1/2″, and for the large they are 4-1/2″ x 80-1/2″.

Completing the Top

Then add the strips to the side. In both cases they are 4-1/2″ x 92-1/2″.

Completing the Top

Tada!!  A completed top!  (At least in theory…I have a few more 4″ stars to make before I get there myself…)

Completing the Top

Completing the Top

I think that this should be enough information, but if you have any questions then head over to the Flickr group and ask them in the discussion thread I’ve started here.  I’ll be stopping by shortly myself, since I have lots of catching up to do.  I’m sure there have been lots of lovely new stars posted while I’ve been away!  I’m still catching up on all my email, too, but I’ll try to answer the questions that have come in by the end of the day.

And I’d love it if everyone would join me back here for a little linky party at the end of the month (March 31st) to share their images of their finished quilts.  Sound good?

Oh My Stars! (A Quilt-Along)


March 5, 2012

It has been a difficult few weeks.

I went home for the long weekend (Family Day here in Canada, President’s Day south of the border) thinking that it would be a short stay.  Dad really wanted to spend a day skiing with me, something I hadn’t done in about 15 years…and for the record, I can’t believe that I am old enough to say something like that!  So I headed north on the Friday evening, and had a lovely few days visiting with family and enjoying the outdoors.

I was packing the car and readying myself for the drive back south when the charge nurse from my grandfather’s nursing home called to say that he had developed pneumonia and wasn’t doing well.  So I unpacked the car and Mum, Nana and I spent the rest of the week sitting with him, watching him struggle for every breath, ensuring that he received enough medication to keep him from feeling any pain.  He died on Saturday, just before 11:00 pm.

The week since has been one of mixed emotions.  In many ways we have been hoping for this for a while.  Dementia took Poppa from us five years ago, and it has been incredibly painful to see him living a life that would have horrified him.  He was smart.  The kind of smart that took him from living on the streets of London during WWII to a Vice Presidency at Bausch & Lomb.  The kind of smart that awarded him a commission in the Black Watch despite being neither a Scot nor an aristocrat.  The kind of smart that allowed him to write electrical engineering exams having never even finished high school.  Dinner at my grandparents’ house was always engaging, with heated discussions about politics and ethics.  I learned from Poppa that you can learn more from playing the devil’s advocate in a debate than from defending your own beliefs.  He also had an excellent sense of humour, which often had us in stitches for most of the meal.

My grandfather had an impeccable eye for art and design, and he taught me to value thoughtful design in everyday objects.  His closet was full of custom-tailored suits, and my grandparents’ home was full of lovely, well-built furnishings and the walls were covered in original art.  While I did not follow directly in his footsteps, my decision to study architecture was in part because of the example he set.

And he was the ultimate boy scout.  Likely due in part to an early life of uncertainty on the street, and in part to his officer training and time served in the Middle East, he believed in preparedness, and his car was a survival kit on wheels:  blankets, flares, cans of food, bottles of water, paddles, life jackets…  He took his role as family protector seriously, and always made sure that we felt safe and supported and loved.

He was a role model to us all: to work hard, to be generous, to be thoughtful, to be loyal.  He set quite an example.  I am grateful that his suffering has finally ended, but I will miss him.

Black Watch

Victor Norman Ryland

Globe and Mail

Captain Bligh. ;)

Christmas 1981

Ryland's Rangers c.1994